U.S. House Small Business Committee Ranking Member Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) sent a letter Tuesday calling on the Small Business Administration to outline the concrete actions it is taking to help the thousands of Puerto Rican small businesses recovering from Hurricane Maria.
Reports from the island estimate that due to the storm, 5,000 of Puerto Rico’s small businesses will be forced to shut down. According to the United Retailers Association, nearly 35 percent of small and midsize businesses in Puerto Rico have not resumed operations due to widespread power outages.
SBA has approved only 12 of the 548 Maria-related business disaster loans in Puerto Rico, to which Velázquez said: “This is simply unacceptable as thousands of small firms are struggling to keep their doors open and in some cases, struggling to compete for federal contracts.”
In the letter, Velázquez pressed SBA Administrator Linda McMahon on what her agency is doing to promote local business participation in federal contracts, and to increase disaster loan approvals.
“María was a disaster of historic proportions, decimating nearly every corner of the island,” said Velázquez.
“Considering the scale of this damage, it is unacceptable that only a tiny fraction of business disaster loans have been approved,” she said.
“In what will be an expansive, costly and long period of rebuilding, the federal government is on track to spend billions of dollars in recovery efforts,” Velázquez said.
During this process, SBA must fulfill its role in ensuring that small businesses have the tools they need to compete for and win federal rebuilding contracts, she added.
Velázquez asked the SBA to provide the Committee with specific steps the agency is taking to 1) increase disaster loan approvals in Puerto Rico and 2) promote local small business participation in federal contracts, especially those related to the on-going disaster response and recovery.